Currently viewing the tag: "Parris Island"

James Rada, Jr.

Jim Wisotzskey considers himself the luckiest guy in the world. He is ninety-three years old and is still going strong. He has lived in Thurmont all of his life, except for a few years in the 1940s during World War II. He survived the war, barely missing several times when he could have easily been among the casualties—this is why he considers himself so lucky.

After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, Jim, like many Americans, rushed off to join one of the Armed Forces. The problem was that he was seventeen years old at the time, and he couldn’t enlist without his parents’ signature.

Grinning, Jim recalled, “I know they wanted to get rid of me, but they wouldn’t sign.”

When he turned eighteen, he enlisted in the Marines and was shipped off to Parris Island. Apparently, it wasn’t as grueling a time for Jim as it was for other Marines. He actually said that he liked his drill instructor.

At the end of his basic training, all of the enlistees were taken into a hall and given a test. This was the first time where Jim’s luck helped him out.

“I was raised by a storekeeper, and the test was all about storekeeping things,” he said.

He figures he must have aced the test, because of the ninety-four Marines in his group, he was the only one sent to Quartermaster School in San Diego. The rest were sent off to fight. Once Jim learned how to be a quartermaster, he was shipped off to Hawaii.

Three days after arriving, he and the other Marines were told to line up to get their orders to ship out to an island where they needed to build an airstrip. The problem was that the Japanese were on the island and intended to remain there.

While he was in line waiting to board the plane, a bicycle messenger pedaled up with a message for the officer in charge. The officer read the piece of paper, looked at the line of waiting Marines, and cut it off at a point ahead of Jim. He and the other Marines behind the cut-off were told to return to their barracks.

Jim thought that he would just be taking another plane out the next day, but Hawaii became his duty station.

“Of that first batch of Marines that went out, only seven came back,” Jim said. “It was my name that saved me. We were alphabetical, and I’m always near the end of the line.”

Jim’s job in Hawaii was to gather orders. Each morning, he was given a list of supplies and parts that he needed to collect. Usually, he would go out to Barber’s Point to meet the incoming supply ships and see if they had what he needed. If they didn’t, he still needed to find the items. He would scrounge through junkyards, and also admitted to “borrowing” them from Navy planes without asking the permission of the Navy.

Another instance of his luck saving him was during the West Loch Disaster. On May 21, 1944, a mortar round on a landing ship exploded, which set off a chain of explosions and fires at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base. Over the next day, 6 landing ships sank, 163 people were killed, and 396 people were injured.

“We had fallout raining down on our camp for seven days,” Jim said.

The incident was kept classified until 1960, and so it is not a well-known incident from WWII. Jim could have easily been one of the casualties that day, but he was working elsewhere.

“Friends told me they saw Marines holding onto railings with their heads missing, but they were still standing,” remembered Jim.

One time where his luck failed him was when it came time to return to the states. As he was waiting to board the ship that would take him home, he got horrible stomach pains and doubled over. He was taken to sick back with an acute appendicitis, so severe that a doctor had to be brought in to operate immediately on Jim.

Meanwhile, the ship sailed without him, and it had all his papers. He was forced to spend the next three months recovering in a tent area on Hawaii until his papers made their way back to him and he could leave for California.

As the war wound down, Jim got two weeks leave, which he spent in Thurmont, getting married. He and Lilalee Caton had known each other before the war started; although, she had been fourteen and he seventeen when they met. She wrote to him while he was in Hawaii and sent him care packages. Now they were both adults and decided to marry on July 4, 1945.

The war was already won in Europe, and the focus was on ending the war in the Pacific. After his leave, Jim had to return to California for six more months. He was discharged as a sergeant at the end of the war and returned home to his wife.

He became a carpenter, and he and Lilalee raised three children. Lilalee passed away last year, but she did not leave Jim alone. Besides their three children, they have seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.

Jim Wisotzkey is shown in front of a display of the many puzzles he has put together and mounted as an art display at Moser Manor.

by Jim Houck, Jr.

Lance Corporal Paul Joseph Humerick

U.S. Marine Corps

Born at Annie M. Warner Hospital in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in June of 1947, was a son to Paul E. and Ida G. (Brawner) Humerick. They named him Paul Joseph and gave him the nickname “Sonny.” Paul and Ida took Sonny home to Emmitsburg, where they resided in a house on North Seton Avenue. This is where Sonny spent his entire childhood. He said it was the best of all places to grow up. Right below his house ran Flat Run creek, where he and his friends could go wading and fishing, and there were nearby woods to hunt mushrooms. They had many fields to run and play in. All-in-all, Sonny had a very happy childhood growing up in Emmitsburg.

Sonny said he had two very close friends that he grew up with: Mike Shorb and Billy Weidner. Sonny had a part-time job during the summers mowing grass out by Natural Dam and helping his dad mow at the Sharpe farm. This gave him a little spending money, and Sonny, Mike, and Billy could hardly wait until the week’s end to go and listen to Wayne Sanders’ band play some rock and roll music. Wayne Sanders had a rock and roll band called “Dwayne and the Sounds” and was the hometown entertainment; they had a lot of local followers. When Sonny turned sixteen, he was at the Tropical Treat in Taneytown, where Dwayne and the Sounds were playing. There, he met Linda Wetzel; and, although he knew Linda’s brother, he did not know her. They hit it off that night, and that marked the beginning of a fifty-four-year relationship, married fifty-one of those years. They got married the April 15, 1966. Sonny says he kinda took a “liking to her” and she kinda took a “liking to him.” I would think it was kinda more like a “loving to each other.” What do you think?

In February of 1966, Sonny got a notice from the Draft Board to report to Fort Holibird in Baltimore. Sonny, Denny Staley, and Leroy Shealey were all on the bus to Fort Holibird. Leroy passed the physical, but Sonny and Denny did not. So, they put Sonny and Denny in a big room—about the size of two basketball stadiums combined—and a sergeant came in and walked up and down and looked them over and said, “I’m going to tell you right now, you have thirty days to take care of any business you have, because the Army has you.” Well, Sonny and Linda had plans of getting married in April; they also had a piece of ground cleared and were planning on building a house. When Sonny got home from Holibird, he told Linda and his mom and dad that he had been drafted and he was going in the Army; it wasn’t his choosing but that was the way it was. Sonny said that a few weeks later he received some papers from the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps that said “congratulations, you were accepted in the military.” He explained that the Marine Corps had a ninety-day plan, and that meant that if he joined, then he wouldn’t have to go for three months. That meant one thing to Sonny: he could still get married. So, Sonny and a friend of his, Johnny Eckenrode (who worked with Sonny at the Provincial House), decided to go to Frederick and join the Marines. The recruiter sent them back to Fort Holibird for another physical and, from there, they were sent to Gay and Lombard street to be sworn in. That was on the March 3, 1966, when he became a Jarhead, and he was going to wait to get married in April. Johnny didn’t want to wait, so he volunteered for Vietnam and went in right away. When it was time for Sonny to leave, he went from Baltimore to Georgia, and then arrived at Parris Island on June 2, at 2:00 a.m. The drill instructor got on the bus and was talking to the driver and then turned to Sonny and the rest of the recruits. Sonny said you never saw such a commotion, with forty-five guys trying to get out of that little bus door at one time. Sonny remembers thinking to himself “What in the world am I doing here?” He made it through boot camp and got twenty days of leave, so he went home. After his twenty days of leave at home, he was sent to Camp Lejeune for Infantry Training; in the meantime, he had a MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) as a cook. He was sent to Camp Gardner and went through cook school. Sonny was then shipped to Camp Pendelton in San Diego, California, where he spent his entire Marine career; he was Honorably Discharged from there. Sonny got to visit several of his friends and relatives while at Camp Pendelton: his cousin, Jerry Wagerman; friend, Johnny Knott; friend, Jimmy Wastler; and friend, Phil Mort. Sonny and Linda never had a honeymoon, and he really missed her and his mother and father, so he was very happy to be going home.

After he arrived back home, he went back to work at the Provincial House, where he worked before he joined the Marines, and remained there for forty-seven years.

Sonny is now retired, and he and Linda are still living on the mountain and are very happy with their family-life. They have two children: Stacy and Stephanie. Stacy has a son and a daughter, Zachary and Samantha; and Stephanie has a son, Riley. Sonny regrets that his parents didn’t survive long enough to meet their great-grandchildren; he lost his mother in 1972 and his father in 1992.

Linda and Sonny still go to the Rock and Roll dances at the Ambulance Building in Emmitsburg. They are active and love to get out and about! So, if you meet them at Jubilee or anywhere around the neighborhood, say “Hi” and thank Sonny for his service.

I really enjoyed the little chat I had with Sonny and Linda. I tried to get Linda to put her two cents worth in, but she was not having any of it.

They are the perfect example of a very happy couple and family, who stay positive and enjoy their lives together

God Bless the United States of America, God Bless the U.S. Veteran, and God Bless You.

Lance Corporal Paul Joseph Humerick, United States Marine Corps.